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Home Ruler (D)

Dick Glasgow

Dick Glasgow

The hornpipe “Home Ruler” was composed in the 1960’s by the co. Antrim fiddler Frank McCollam. In sessions it is sometimes called “Home Rule” or “Daniel O’Connell, the Home Ruler” and thought to commend the belief in Irish Home Rule championed by, for example, Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847) and James Brown Armour (1841–1928).  You will also find that some websites where this tune is posted will display a picture of one or the other man.  This association is mostly due to the Chieftains album Boil the Breakfast Early (1979), where the tune is identified with the latter name and played first in a set of three called “Bealach An Doirín” (track 5) — that title could be translated as “Path Through the Wood” in English, or better “The Green Way.”  The album, which is usually just called “Chieftains 9” and marks the departure of Sean Potts (1930-2014) and Mick Tubridy (b. 1935), is their first with Matt Molloy, who in fact plays the tune a bit on the slow side, but with his typical panache. So, many people will tell you that the tune is about Home Rule or was originally dedicated to Daniel O’Connell. However, even though that may have been the Chieftains aim, as Dick Glasgow wrote in Irish Music Magazine (June, 2002) and North Antrim Music (June, 2011), “Frank in fact named the tune after his wife, Sally; and Frank’s daughter Catherine later confirmed this by telling me how all the men then, used to refer to their wives as ‘The Home Ruler’.”  The version here is pretty close to the one common at many sessions, but it’s slightly different in some ways than the original, which you can hear Dick Glasgow play on Soundcloud. When the two parts are reversed some people call the tune “The Hangman’s Noose.” That title is unfortunate since McCollum did compose another tune he actually called “The Hangman’s Noose,” which Dick Glasgow asserts is a reference to John MacNaghten (1722–1761), who is sometimes refered to as “Half-Hung MacNaghten” even though he was actually hung twice, in November and December 1761. You can also find a common version of “Home Ruler” in Phil Rubenzer’s Midwestern Irish Session Tunes (2000).

For the ABC click Home Ruler

Home Ruler, slow tempo

Home Ruler, med tempo

Home Ruler, the dots

Home Ruler

Home Ruler, Hornpipe in D


The Wonder (G)

This hornpipe is on De Dannan’s CD Hibernian Rhapsody (1996), the second of two tunes on track 10 “New Century” and “The Wonder,” collectively called “George Ross’ Horn Pipes.”  This tune was recorded by the Wexford accordionist George Ross in the 1950s (which is apparently where members of De Dannan picked it up), but it is most often attributed to James Hill (c. 1811-1853), the “Paganini of hornpipes,” publican, and fiddler from Newcastle, Northumberland, who is also commonly said to have composed “Rights of Man,” “Navvy on the Line,” “Sailor’s Hornpipe,” and numerous others. On the Danú CD The Road Less Traveled (2003) our hornpipe here is on track 10, and paired with “The Impish Hornpipe,” a Danú original. Now, just for clarity, there is also a tune called “The Wonder” on concertina player Father Charles Coen’s album Father Charlie (1979) as the second of two hornpipes in the set “The Echo/The Wonder.”  However, the tune on Father Charlie is a different hornpipe, and as far as I can tell is unique to that album.  Our hornpipe “The Wonder” is #1604 in O’Neill’s 1850 (1903) but there entitled “Coey’s Hornpipe,” and it’s in Ryan’s Mammoth Collection (1883) listed as “Tammany Ring.”

For the ABC click The Wonder

The Wonder, slow tempo

The Wonder, med tempo

The Wonder, the dots

The Wonder

The Wonder

Girl Who Broke My Heart (Gmix)

Burke, If the Cap Fits

Burke, If the Cap Fits (1978)

The reel “Girl Who Broke My Heart” is in Gmix, but in some settings there are the occasional B flats à la Kevin Burke’s If the Cap Fits (1978).  As a result it is sometimes thought to be in other keys/modes.  This tune, though not a girl, inspires discussions that can break your heart if you spend time working on modes.  So, just to be clear, the key signature of Gmix has no sharps (or flats), not one, and so that signature could designate the following: C Ionian, D Dorian, G Mixolydian, or A Aeolian. Just which of these the tune is actually in would make little difference to a melody players, of course, since the melody is not the melody which alters when it alteration finds.  However, anyone accompanying the tune would find that the only chords that make sense are in Gmix, viz., G, Am, C, Dm, F.  I know modes are pretty confusing to many people, novice and seasoned players alike.  Melody players can play with alternate settings, throwing in flatted notes or sharped ones, but there are still only certain chord patterns that will make sense unless you prefer Trazz, or seek to explore twelve-tone Trassical music.  In essence, there are all sorts of nonsense out there, and it’s important to keep clear of it. The way to do that is to keep reading!

Heaton, Dearga

Heaton, Dearga (2003)

Our tune is also on Kevin Burke’s album Sweeney’s Dream (1973), De Dannan’s Hibernian Rhapsody (1995), Matt and Shannon Heaton’s Dearga (2003), and Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill’s Welcome Here Again (2007); and the tune is #1176 in O’Neill’s 1850 (1903), and #456 in O’Neill’s 1001 (1907).

For the ABC click Girl Who Broke My Heart

Girl Who Broke My Heart, slow tempo (David Agee, fiddle)

Girl Who Broke My Heart, med tempo (David Agee, fiddle)

Girl Who Broke My Heart, the dots

Girl Who Broke My Heart

Girl Who Broke My Heart

Atholl Highlanders (Amix)

Atholl Highlander

John MacPherson, Pipe Major of the Atholl Highlanders (1858)

The four-part jig “Atholl Highlanders” is originally a Shetland tune, and originally called “The Three Sisters.”  I don’t think anyone has called it by the original name for a very long time, however. It is a characteristic Scots pipe march, though there are some odd things about it. As a pipe march it is known as “The Gathering of the Grahams,” and came to be played by the 77th Regiment of Foot, formed in 1778.  This is a bit surprising, though not unheard of, as a march in 6/8 would usually have been played for cavalry. The 77th Regiment was disbanded in 1783, then reformed in 1839 with a more ceremonial function, and recruited from The Scottish Horse.  Though they rarely parade, the Regiment did participate in the Year of Homecoming (2009) when all of Scotland’s clans took part in a parade in Edinburgh.  The tune is also popular among dancers and dance musicians, who will refer to it by its associated dance “The Duke of Gordon’s Reel,” which could be pretty confusing as this is a jig.  There are several versions of this jig, which is not at all surprising given its age, but most of them are pretty close.  Often paired with “Jig of Slurs” in sessions, also forming a popular set for contra dancing, on the album Fiddlesticks: Irish Traditional Music from Donegal (1991) they put “The Irish Washerwoman” between these two tunes, which is surprising as that middle tune was usually held to be a melodia non grata even in the early 1990s. As for influential sets with this tune, an early one is The Tannahill Weavers who pair it with “Johnnie Cope” on Tannahill Weavers IV (1981).  On the other hand,  on the Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Frankie Kennedy album Ceol Aduaidh (1983), which is one of my favorites,  they play the set “Pet in the Kitchen > An Fathach Éireannach > Atholl Highlanders.”  So, it depends on the direction you like best. The “Atholl Highlanders” is in Phil Rubenzer’s Midwestern Irish Session Tunes(2000), so it has been played in the Midwest for a long while.

For the ABC click Atholl Highlanders

Atholl Highlanders, slow tempo (David Agee, fiddle)

Atholl Highlanders, med tempo (David Agee, fiddle)

Atholl Highlanders, the dots

Atholl Highlanders

Atholl Highlanders, Jig in Amix

Jig of Slurs (D|G)

G.S. McLennan

G.S. McLennan (c. 1926)

Though Scottish musicians so often assert that Irish tunes are “originally Scottish” that the very claim is now met with an unbelieving shrug, in this case it happens to be true.  It was composed by the Aberdeen piper George S. McLennan (1883-1927), who played before Queen Victoria as a boy.  According to the Fiddler’s Companion, in 1910 McLennan wrote “My Jig o’ Slurs, I’m extremely proud of, not of course as a tune with a fine melody but for its grand execution. I do not know of a tune which is nearly as difficult or requires such a nimble finger to play. The person who can play it through two or three times without missing a slur has no cause to be ashamed of his fingers.”  A great version is on Matt Molloy’s Stony Steps (1987) played alone with Arty McGlynn on guitar the first time through, and with Donnal Lunny on bouzouki thereafter — Lunny also plays bodhrán on the album. Often paired with “Atholl Highlanders” in sessions, it is also a popular set for contra dancing.  You can find it on the album Fiddlesticks: Irish Traditional Music from Donegal (1991) though they put “The Irish Washerwoman” between these two tunes — though on the MP3 download of the album from Amazon it is called “The Jug of Slurs,” which also seems to fit well. The tune is in Phil Rubenzer’s Midwestern Irish Session Tunes (2000), and has been played in the Midwest for a long while, since at least the late 1970s.

Note that this tune completely disregards the adage concerning horses and rivers: the four-part “Jig of Slurs” changes keys in the middle, from D to G. This is much less important to melody players than to accompanists, of course.  Though, in general, I think the adage still stands.

For the ABC click Jig of Slurs

Jig of Slurs, slow tempo (David Agee, fiddle)

Jig of Slurs, med tempo (David Agee, fiddle)

Jig of Slurs, the dots

Jig of Slurs

Jig of Slurs (D | G)

Arthur Darley’s (D | Daeol |D)

Arty McGlynn CD 1994

Arty McGlynn, McGlynn’s Fancy 1994

This tune, “Arthur Darley’s Jig,” is also commonly known as “The Swedish Jig” and less well-known as “The Bruckless Shore.”  On the Arty McGlynn CD McGlynn’s Fancy (1994) the liner notes read “Arthur Darley arrived in Co. Donegal from Dublin to play the organ in a church somewhere around, it is believed, Bruckless.” Arthur W. Darley (1873–1929) was a classically trained musician, and became the Church of Ireland organist in Bruckless.  Having retained a respect for traditional music, he traveled around co. Donegal listening to traditional music, especially the fiddle music of John Doherty and Donny O’Donnell.  Together with his friend Patrick J. McCall they collected many tunes from Donegal around the turn of the last century, and the collection was later published as The Darley & McCall Collection of Irish Music (Ossian Publications Limited, 1914). They also composed tunes and songs, including “The Boys of Wexford” and “Boolavogue.”  This jig was one of the tunes composed by Arthur Darley and he called it “The Bruckless Shore.” He passed it on to John Doherty, and as Caoimhi Mac Aoidh explains, John Doherty then passed it on to Danny Meehan who was visiting from London.  However, when Meehan returned to London he couldn’t remember the tune’s name, and some at the session thought it sounded like a Scandinavian tune, and so would request that Meehan play “that Swedish jig.”  That name spread with the tune as it traveled from London (Between the Jigs and Reels, Caoimhin Mac Aoidh, 1994), but was boosted by the Le Cheile album Lord Mayo (1978) with Danny Meehan on fiddle, and played in the set “The Runrig Jig > The Swedish Jig” on the Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham CD The Pearl (1994). So, though you might hear someone call it “Arthur Darley’s Swedish Jig,” you now know why that’s just a jumble.

Notes: the tune has an extra beat in the second measure of the A part (so that one measure is in 9/8).  The tune is sometimes played with an F natural in the first bar of the C part.  Further, you may find places on the web where the tune is posted in different keys, but uses the same notes. This is just a confusion due to the common failure to understand modes.

For the ABC click Arthur Darley’s Jig

Arthur Darley’s Jig, slow tempo (David Agee, fiddle)

Arthur Darley’s Jig, med tempo (David Agee, fiddle)

Arthur Darley’s Jig, the dots

Arthur Darley's Jig

The Bruckless Shore Arthur Darley’s
The Swedish Jig


Concertina Reel (D)

45-jeffries-raised-endsThe English concertina was invented by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1829, and the German version invented by Carl Friedrich Uhlig in 1834.  These seem to be independent inventions. It is a hand-held bellows-driven free reed instruments, with reeds made of brass and later steel. The English concertina is unisonoric, giving the same note per button, push or pull.  The Anglo concertina is bisonoric, giving a different note per button on the push and pull.

The well-known “Concertina Reel” is from at least the late nineteenth century.  This very tune is sometimes called “The Old Concertina Reel” and sometimes called “The New Concertina Reel.”  Now, though the reasons are obscure, mostly having to do with confusions between this and a few other reels, the “Old Concertina Reel” seems most apt, as calling this tune “The New . . .” requires taking up a socially and historically unavailable perspective, even for those who were addicted to “The Victorian Farm,” “The 1900s House,” “The Victorian Pharmacy,” “The Edwardian Farm,”  “The Edwardian Country House” or “Manor House,” “The Colony” (New South Wales version),  “Colonial House,” “Frontier House,” or even “All Creatures Great and Small.”

Willie Clancey

Willie Clancey

Our tune, whether you call it “old” or “new,” was played by the piper Willie Clancy, who learned it from his concertina-playing mother, Ellen Killeen of Enistymon, and it is in the tune book The Dance Music of Willie Clancy (Cork, 1976) by Pat Mitchell.  Willie Clancy’s father Gilbert (Islandbawn, near Milton Malbay) also played concertina in addition to his primary instrument, the flute.

It is tune #275 in Breandán Breathnach’s Ceol Rince na hÉireann, no. 2 (1976), #43 in Dave Mallinson’s 100 Essential Irish Session Tunes (2001), and in Phil Rubenzer’s Midwestern Irish Session Tunes (2000).

For the ABC click Concertina Reel

Concertina Reel,

Concertina Reel,

Concertina Reel, the dots

Concertina Reel

Concertina Reel, Reel in D

Gravel Walks (Ador)

This reel, “Gravel Walks” or “The Gravel Walks,” is also called “The Gravelled Walks to Granny,” and “Jenny Tie your Bonnet.” In Vallely’s  Fiddler’s Companion Caoimhin Mac Aoidh writes that Granny (or sometimes Grainne or Cranny) is a secluded and unpopulated glen between Ardara (pronounces Ar-DRA) and Glencolmcille (pronounced Glen-CULLIM-kill) in southwest co. Donegal.  People from the nearby villages of Ardara, Kilcar, and Glen would bring their sheep to Granny for the summer and come back for them in autumn.  To get there they’d have to walk and climb up several gravel paths.  It was not smooth going.  The tune, perhaps, mimics route.

The title “Jenny Tie your Bonnet” appears to have originally been a Scottish tune called “Janet Tyed the Bonnet Tight” as printed in The Piper’s Assistant (1877). Two brothers, fiddlers from Donegal, tell the tale of a man who had only two tunes in his repertoire. However, upon meeting some of the wee folk, they imparted to him many, many more tunes, vastly increasing his repertoire — which is not an unknown benefit of meeting favorable folk of their kind in Ireland — this being one of the tunes. So if you are having trouble with this one, you know where to go . . .  and who to blame.

In the KC area we play this Ador|C tune with the structure AABBCCDD. Apparently, in Donegal, where the tune is a favorite, it is often played as ABCCDD. In the key of Ador (which means the tune has all the same notes as the key of G), the first three parts of the tune can be simply backed with Am and G chords (and an occasional Em), while the fourth part has a nice uplifting change, starting on a C major chord.  There are many more possibilities, of course.

For the ABC click Gravel Walks

Gravel Walks

Gravel Walks

Gravel Walks, the dots

Gravel Walks

Gravel Walks, Reel in Am|C

Da Slockit Light (D)

Tom Anderson

Tom Anderson

This reel-time slow air, “Da Slockit Light,” was composed by the renown Shetland fiddler Tom Anderson (1910-1991), who composed over three hundred tunes.  He was born in Esha Ness, on the Northmavine peninsula, in the far northwest edge of the Shetland mainland. He began composing in 1936 and continued to do so almost until the day he died.  This tune is sometimes thought to be his best-known, and it is often played very slowly to reflect the sort of melancholy nostalgia with which it was composed.  This is the way it is played, for instance, on the CD by Brendan Bulger, Marty Fahey, Kathleen Gavin entitled Music at the House (2003). Kathleen Gavin plays “Da Slockit Light” on piano there, and it’s a very moving rendition if you know the background.  She provided background on the tune, as have others, and the story runs as follows:

Tom Anderson Silver Bow

Tom Anderson, Silver Bow (1975)

Once, when asked about the tune, Tom Anderson recounted that he was leaving his birth-home of Esha Ness one cold January in 1969.  It was after 11pm and with maybe a quarter-moon it was a rather dark night. As he was leaving he looked back at the top of the hill leading out of the district and he saw so few lights compared to what he remembered from his youth.  Then, as he stood there, the lights started to go out one by one.  “Coupled with the recent death of my wife,” he explained “made me think of the old word ‘Slockit,’ meaning, a light that has gone out, and I think that is what inspired the tune” (1970).

It has been done many times, by many players, traditional and classical. The best versions, in my opinion, embody a real sense of reminiscent sadness, recalling a memory that brings you joy but with the recognition that it will never be had again. Here’s an arrangement by Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas (2004), and here’s one by Takehiro Kunugi with the Osaka Symphony (2006). By the way, there are a few Tom Anderson tune books around, but they are pretty hard to come by these days.  If you see any of them you should think about that, and if you find one and don’t want it, let me know please!  Here are the three I know are out there somewhere: Haand me doon da Fiddle (1980), Ringing Strings: Traditional Shetland Music and Dance (1983), and Gie’s an A: Shetland Fiddle Tunes (1995).

As an idea, start with this tune played at a slow to med tempo, and then pick up the tempo when you transition to “Da Rood ta Houll > Far from Home > Bonnie Isle O’Whalsey” and maybe then on to “Spootiskerry > Willafjord.”  That would be quite a Shetland set!

For the ABC click Da Slockit Light

Da Slockit Light,

Da Slockit Light

Da Slockit Light, da dots

Da Slockit Light

Da Slockit Light, Reel in D

The Crooked Road to Dublin (G)

Missing Liberty Tapes, Paul Brady

Missing Liberty Tapes, Paul Brady (1978)

The reel “The Crooked Road to Dublin” is not a crooked tune, in fact it’s simply played ABAB.  Also just called “The Crooked Road,” it is a pretty popular session tune in many corners of the world, despite the fact that the world has no corners, the Flat Earth Society notwithstanding.  There were several recordings of this tune in the 1970s, including John McGreevy and Seamus Cooley on McGreevy & Cooley (1974) in a set with “The Moving Bog.”  Julia, John, and Billy Clifford have a version played with “The Clare Reel” on The Star of Munster Trio (1977), recorded between 1964 and 1976. On Paul Brady’s first solo album The (Missing) Liberty Tapes (1978), the set “Crooked Road to Dublin / Bucks of Oranmore” is track 9, and features Paul Brady, Donal Lunny, Matt Molloy, Andy Irvine, Liam O’Flynn,  Paddy Glackin, and Noel Hill. That recording shows that this is a pretty mighty 32-bar reel when it gets moving.  Martin Hayes has a roaring version on Under the Moon (2006). It was also on the Paul Brady & Andy McGann album It’s A Hard Road to Travel (1977) in a much more sedate form, something reminiscent of the way it was played earlier by several well-known players: Michael Coleman (1891-1945) on the fiddle, John Kelly (1912-1989) on the fiddle, Willie Clancy (1918-1973) on the pipes, John McGreevy (1919 – 1990) on the fiddle, and Seamus Cooley (1929-1997) on the flute.  It seems to have evolved from a Scottish pipe tune sometime after 1910.  The chords I’ve give are very simple (actually there’s just two chords), though there are many more options!

For the ABC click Crooked Road To Dublin

The Crooked Road to Dublin, slow tempo


The Crooked Road to Dublin, med tempo


The Crooked Road to Dublin, the dots

Crooked Road To Dublin

Crooked Road To Dublin